Like so many others around the world watching the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team dominate at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio this past week, I was inspired. The athleticism, strength, grace, artistry, power, determination, showmanship– the list of traits required to master the feats these women have achieved physically is truly astounding, and they have the team gold to show for it.
So, when I see gold medal all around champion Simone Biles artfully stick her landing off a gravity defying double layout with her hands in the air, of course my first thought is, “I could do that hand flourish stuff with my hands, too.”
The Final Five, as the team is known, have inspired me to pursue gymnastics in my own way, especially the hands-only parts of it. I have a deep appreciation and respect for how many years and how much sacrifice these young women have dedicated in order to be competing at the highest level and do things no one else can do with their bodies. That’s why I spent my whole morning practicing some of the cool hand moves they pause to do in between all the other gymnastics stuff. It might not sound as impressive but consider that the morning is basically the entire childhood and early adolescence of the day’s metaphorical 24 hour life span.
That’s what it takes to be great.
Not just anyone can execute 16 year old Laurie Hernandez’ balance beam skills that won her the event’s silver medal. Most people couldn’t do that beam routine on the ground much less on a four inch surface in front of a stadium full of people.
I definitely, totally can’t do that, but I can move just my hands around the way she does when no one’s watching me.
Aly Raisman won the silver medal in the all around competition, and it’s likely if Gabby Douglas had been allowed to compete (each country is limited to two athletes for the all around competition), she would have earned the bronze as she placed third in qualifying.
Similarly, if I were allowed to compete in the event that’s only the fun, significantly less dangerous hand stuff (this event doesn’t yet exist) I’d probably obliterate the competition. Aly and Gabby make impossible acrobatic moves look effortless on the floor and uneven bars as they flip and fly through the air like super humans and somehow land on their feet with a wave and a smile. In my hypothetical event limited exclusively to the same graceful hand stuff and triumphant facial expressions, you bet I always land on my feet, because they never left the ground in the first place.
And just like Simone, Laurie, Madison, Gabby, and Aly, I make it look easy.
USA! USA! USA!